Collagen Protein: The Key to Weight Loss and Muscle Growth?

If you want to lose more fat and build more muscle without working any harder…Then you need to learn all about collagen protein. 

If you’re reading this, then odds are you want to build muscle and/or lose weight. You know, given the article title and all…But also because: who wants to get weaker and heavier with age?  

Now, you’ve likely searched the internet for a long time. That is, looking for all the best ways to shed fat and build muscle. 

But if you’re like most people, you’ve come to realize that it just takes a lot of work. And a long, long time. Since all told, eating well and training hard is the only way to sculpt your dream body. Right? 

Well, yeah. For the most part. But what if I told you that this one supplement could help you transform your physique?

That really, for less than a dollar per day, you could effortlessly shed fat or build more muscle. And that you could reach your fitness goals faster, without working any harder

Well, with collagen protein, that’s true. So this article shows how you can use collagen for weight loss, muscle growth, and strength gain. All while keeping your joints and skin healthier, no less…

So, let’s dive in: 

COLLAGEN AND WEIGHT LOSS 

Many collagen companies suggest that collagen protein can help with weight loss. And oddly enough, they’re right. 

Well, actually, that’s not quite right. Truly, collagen protein doesn’t always boost weight loss

But with that said, collagen does help with fat loss… Which is even better than weight loss! 

collagen-protein-improves-body-composition

You see, collagen protein can help you gain lean body mass. And as such, it may slow down weight loss by a bit. But, with this extra lean mass gain, your body fat percentage actually drops by more

So in other words, collagen won’t always make you lighter, but it will make you leaner. And that’s what most people really want; not weight loss – but fat loss. 

Now with that said, let’s get into the research: 

COLLAGEN AND FAT LOSS: WHAT STUDIES SHOW 

To be clear, every single study shows more fat loss (or less fat gain) with collagen supplements. That is, when you give people collagen protein and do nothing else, they lose more fat [2,3,4,5]. Or at least, they gain less fat

But luckily, this isn’t just compared to nothing. As even when compared to whey protein, collagen may help you lose more fat (maybe not)

And better yet, the longer you take collagen, the more fat you seem to lose (at least up to 12 weeks). 

collagen-helps-more-over-time

Thus, time and time again, collagen protein has shown to boost fat loss. But further, the longer you take it, the better. And what’s more, you might not see as much fat loss with other protein sources (e.g. whey). 

But now, let’s get to the obvious question:

HOW MUCH FAT WILL COLLAGEN HELP ME LOSE? 

To be exact, when people take collagen, they lose an extra ~2.04.4 lbs (0.8-2.0 kgs) of fat. That is, over a period of 12 weeks.

So on average, collagen helps you lose an extra ~1 lb (.45 kg) of fat per month. At least, as compared to a placebo. 

And while that’s not a ton of fat loss, it is significant. Since the average adult gains ~1-2 lbs (0.5-1.0 kgs) per year. 

Hence, with collagen protein, you may avoid any age-related weight and fat gain. Which would help you stay leaner for life, and promote healthy aging. 

Now, you might be thinking:

WHAT IF I’M BULKING? 

Well, even then, it makes sense to take collagen protein. 

You see, while collagen fights fat gain, it doesn’t hurt lean mass gain. Rather, as you’ll see later, quite the opposite. 

Thus, if you take collagen, you won’t gain any less muscle. But instead, you’ll gain less fat per unit of weight gained. 

And as such, with collagen protein, you might even lower your body fat percentage while bulking.  

But with that said, it makes sense to ask:

WHY DOES COLLAGEN PROTEIN BOOST FAT LOSS?  

When we look at rodent studies, we see that collagen has direct anti-lipogenic effects [2,3]. Which, in essence, means that collagen supplements can help fight fat storage. 

But further, it means that collagen protein fights fat gain, without making you eat less [2,3,4,5,6]. 

And since collagen itself causes fat loss, more should be better. Right? 

IS MORE COLLAGEN BETTER? 

Indeed, the more collagen you take, the more fat you lose. That is, at least up to ~20 grams per day [1,2]. Hence, at least to a point, more collagen is in fact better. 

more-collagen-protein-is-better

So all told, if you want to lose more fat, collagen protein can help. Now, to be clear, collagen won’t always work wonders. But, it can definitely help you make a bit more progress. And for some people, it can help quite a bit

Thus, to max out fat loss, you should take 20+ grams of collagen per day. 

SUMMARY: 

  • In brief, every single study shows that when you give people collagen protein, they lose fat…
  • And believe it or not, even when compared to whey protein, collagen can help with fat loss. 
  • But further, more collagen is better, at least up to 20 grams per day. 
  • Plus, the longer you take collagen, the more fat you lose. That is, at least up to 12 weeks. 
  • Now, if you take collagen for 12 weeks, you should get a bit leaner. Or, to be specific, you can expect to lose an extra ~2-4.4 lbs (0.8-2.0 kgs) of fat. 
  • And if you’re bulking, you should still take collagen. As in this case, collagen protein slows down fat gain, without harming muscle growth. Thus, it helps you build more muscle per pound of weight gain. 
  • Note: collagen protein won’t always help you lose more weight. But more importantly, it will make you skinnier. And that’s because it can help out with lean mass gain too… 

So now, let’s see how collagen can help you gain muscle mass: 

COLLAGEN AND MUSCLE GROWTH 

For years, people have written off collagen as a muscle-building protein. Arguing that it can’t possibly help with muscle growth. And they make some good points. 

To start, it doesn’t even have a complete amino acid profile. That is, it won’t give you enough of all the proteins that you need to build muscle. 

But moreover, you don’t actually absorb all of the collagen you eat. Hence, it doesn’t give you much high-quality protein at all. 

And so, it comes as no shock that when people take collagen without exercise, they don’t gain size [2,3]. 

Really though, there’s more to this story. Because weight lifting changes the game…

In fact, every single training study shows that collagen protein boosts lean mass gain [2,3,4]. And what’s more, that it helps you gain a lot more lean body mass. While making you stronger too, at that [1,2,3,4]

collagen-boosts-lean-mass-gain

But now, you might be wondering: 

WHY DOES LEAN BODY MASS MATTER? 

To be clear, lean mass gain is really important. As in general, when you gain lean body mass, it’s because you’ve built muscle. 

And further, if you carry more lean mass, then odds are you have more muscle mass. 

Thus, we often use lean mass gain as a proxy for muscle growth. And so, if you gain lean mass after lifting weights, we assume that you’ve built muscle. 

Now with that in mind, it seems like collagen protein can help you build lots of muscle. At least if you’re lifting weights…

But, even whey protein fails to boost lean mass gain in many training studies [2,3,4,5,6]. So all told, why would collagen protein be better for muscle growth? 

Well, good question… since it may not be:

LEAN MASS GAIN VS. MUSCLE GROWTH: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? 

As mentioned, we often use lean mass gain as a proxy for muscle growth

But, it’s wrong to assume that lean mass gain equals muscle growth. Here’s why: 

You see, there’s more to lean mass than just muscle mass. As in fact, anything other than body fat, counts as lean body mass. Hence, your organs, bones, skin, and body water are all lean mass too. It’s not just muscle. 

lean-mass-is-not-just-muscle

So, you must have gained lean mass if you’ve built muscle. But the reverse is not true. 

For instance, if you gain bone mass, then you have more lean mass, but no more muscle.

Thus, you can gain lean mass without any muscle growth. And that’s exactly what happens when you take collagen. 

Although it can help you gain lean mass [2,3,4], collagen protein may not help your muscles grow. Or, at least, it won’t help very much early on…

COLLAGEN AND MUSCLE SIZE

Despite all the hype around collagen protein, we only have one study on collagen and muscle size.

In fact, this was the first ever training study on collagen to measure muscle CSA. Which is muscle cross-sectional area. Or simply, muscle size

And oddly enough, while collagen made people gain more lean mass, it didn’t boost muscle size. That is, not within 12 weeks, when compared to placebo. 

So in other words, collagen protein did not help with short-term muscle growth. Or at least, not by all that much.

Instead, researchers think that collagen protein boosts connective tissue growth. Which would explain why collagen can help us gain more lean mass. And also accounts for the lack of muscle growth seen with collagen. 

But with all that said, you may be asking: 

WHY IS THIS?

Well, when you think about how collagen works, this makes sense. 

In most cases, we see that protein helps boost protein synthesis. Which is why we can gain more lean mass when we eat protein. 

And in general, protein can help increase muscle protein synthesis. So when you eat whey protein, for example, you build more muscle protein.

But note, collagen protein might not help as much with muscle protein synthesis…

Rather, collagen supplements seem to help boost collagen synthesis. Thus, when you eat collagen protein, your body makes more collagen

And so, collagen protein shouldn’t help your muscles grow very much. Since after all, collagen only makes up ~1-10% of your muscle protein. 

Yet, while it might not help with muscle growth, collagen synthesis should boost connective tissue growth [1]. As your tendons, for example, contain more collagen protein.

Now…

SHOULD WE WANT CONNECTIVE TISSUE GROWTH?

Of course, some people were let down, since collagen won’t directly boost muscle growth. But truly, they shouldn’t be. 

Recall, earlier I said that collagen could help you gain muscle. Which really, wasn’t a lie…

And that’s because connective tissue growth can be useful over time, perhaps even for muscle growth. As you’ll soon learn. 

Just bear in mind: 

If you want to gain more muscle and lean mass with collagen, you’ll have to lift weights [2,3]. So, with that said, let’s go over why you might want connective tissue gains: 

SUMMARY: 

  • If you lift weights, collagen protein can help you gain more lean mass. 
  • Now, when you gain lean mass, that often means you’ve gained more muscle. But not always…
  • You see, your bones, body water, and connective tissues each count as lean mass too. So lean mass gain isn’t the same as muscle growth. 
  • In fact, while collagen boosts lean mass gain, it may not help much with muscle growth. At least, not in short-term studies. 
  • But more so than muscle, collagen can help grow your connective tissues. And to be clear, that’s a good thing. Here’s why: 

COLLAGEN AND JOINT HEALTH: INJURY PREVENTION 

First off, connective tissues help tie our muscles to our bones. And above all, they make our joints strong and flexible. Which is of course, very important. 

Now note, our connective tissues are made up of collagen protein. But, we lose collagen when we age – which creates problems [2]. 

we-lose-collagen-with-age

To be clear, without support from collagen, our connective tissues break down faster. So this leaves our joints weaker over time. Or worse, it makes us more prone to joint pain, if not injury.

But, collagen supplements can make our joints stronger…

You see, when we take collagen protein, our bodies make more collagen. Which restores our body’s collagen levels, and thus grows our connective tissues. 

Hence, through collagen synthesis, collagen protein can help you fight off joint pain and injuries:   

HOW COLLAGEN PROTEIN HELPS 

In fact, collagen protein can help you recover faster from injury – with less pain and swelling. But further, it might allow you to avoid future injuries as well. 

Plus, many studies show that collagen can fight joint pain [2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12]. Which, if you have joint pain, is clearly good. 

And lastly, collagen protein can help strengthen your bones [2,3,4] too. Of course, stronger bones are less likely to break. So this again protects against injury. 

All told, collagen protein seems to prevent injuries. Helping us break fewer bones, recover from injuries faster, and avoid joint pain. 

But you might be thinking: 

How much does this really matter for us lifters? 

IS WEIGHTLIFTING DANGEROUS? 

Sadly, if you haven’t been hurt while lifting, it’s just a matter of time…

Now, on the bright side, past injury is a main predictor of future injury [2]. So, if you haven’t been hurt yet, you are less likely to get hurt in general. 

But with that said, the longer you lift, the higher your injury risk. Especially if you’re a strong male. Or if you compete on a regular basis. 

To give specific numbers: 

HOW OFTEN ARE LIFTERS HURT?

Powerlifters get hurt once or twice per year [2,3], on average. And at any given time, ~70% of powerlifters face notable pain. While only ~15% are pain-free for over a year. 

So if you’re like most powerlifters, you’ll struggle with pain or injuries this year. And the same goes for weightlifters, crossfitters, or (most of all) strongmen [1]. 

Now, in bodybuilding, injuries are less common. But most lifters still get hurt once every 1-2 years. Which is concerning. 

Thus, if you lift weights, then you’re at serious risk of injury or pain. Which can really slow down muscle growth over time. 

And that’s why collagen could come in handy:

HOW COLLAGEN BOOSTS MUSCLE GROWTH 

All told, collagen can definitely help with muscle growth. At least, in the long run. Because collagen protein fights pain and injuries. 

You see, we wouldn’t expect research to show that collagen helps with muscle growth. As most of the time, studies are short-term (e.g. 12 weeks long). And because in a study, any injured subjects are left out of the final analysis. That is, their results just wouldn’t be counted in the end.

But in practice, if you get hurt, there’s no way around it. You would need to take some time off for recovery, and that would hurt your gains.

Now obviously, if you’re injured, you can’t train as hard. And the same is true when you’re in pain. 

You can’t really lift weights with a broken arm, for instance. Plus, if you have knee pain, then squatting might be very hard on your joints. Moreover though, in some cases, an injury might keep you out of the gym entirely. And if you can’t lift for say, ~3 months, then your gains will suffer. 

So injuries can really limit your gains. But collagen protein can help keep you out of trouble with injuries. Hence, it can help with muscle growth in the long run. 

Again, it’s all because of collagen synthesis. Since that helps strengthen our joints and bones – keeping us pain-free for longer. 

Although, here we’ve just gone over muscle growth. And believe it or not, collagen does even more to boost strength gains… 

SUMMARY: 

  • With age, we lose collagen. And without support from collagen, our joints break down faster. 
  • This is a huge problem; making us prone to pain and injuries. 
  • But luckily, collagen protein can heal injuries – cutting down recovery time. Plus, collagen also strengthens our bones and fights joint pain
  • Which is huge for lifters. Since the longer you lift, the higher your injury risk. And because lifters get hurt a lot. 
  • Sadly, injuries can harm muscle growth and strength gains. As you just can’t progress that fast when you get hurt. 
  • And that’s why collagen protein helps you grow more muscle. Because it lowers your injury risk – which allows you to train more over time. While cutting the amount of time you spend hurt, no less. 

So all told, collagen protein can help you train more over the years. But that’s not the only way it helps you gain strength… 

COLLAGEN AND STRENGTH 

You see, collagen protein helps you gain strength and size for the same reason… As it allows you to train more often, and with fewer injuries. But more so, collagen helps with strength because joint pain can ruin your gains over time. 

Thus, collagen protein lowers injury risk, which helps you get stronger. But more directly, collagen boosts strength because it fights joint pain. 

WHAT STUDIES SHOW 

To be blunt, it’s hard to produce muscle force when you’re hurt. For example, pain can mess with normal muscle activation patterns [2,3].

But more obviously, if it hurts to move weight around, then you might not want to bother with lifting. Hence, collagen allows you to train harder. Since it can get rid of any pain you feel when you work out. 

In fact, when you have joint pain, collagen protein makes you way stronger [2]. And all within just a few weeks, no less.  

collagen-protein-boosts-strength

What’s more though, if you’re older (>50), collagen protein could even double your strength gains. Thus, especially if you have arthritis, collagen protein can help you get much stronger. 

So all told, if you have joint pain or arthritis, then collagen helps you gain strength. 

But, you may want to know…

HOW DOES COLLAGEN HELP WITH JOINT PAIN? 

Once more, it comes back to collagen protein’s effects on connective tissues. And for joint pain specifically, collagen works due to its effects on cartilage.

As you age, your cartilage breaks down, and this leads to arthritis. But collagen supplements can restore your cartilage –  which then eliminates joint pain.

In brief, if your joints hurt, you can’t lift as much. But collagen builds up your cartilage, which fights joint pain. And so collagen protein can help you move more weight. 

Now with that said, this only works out when you have joint pain. As “normal” people don’t get much stronger with collagen, for instance. At least, not in short-term studies. 

But there’s more to this story, since…

CONNECTIVE TISSUE GROWTH BOOSTS STRENGTH 

As you learned earlier, collagen boosts connective tissue growth. And so it strengthens your joints – thereby fighting pain and injury. 

But better yet, connective tissues actually help your muscles produce force [2]. Or in simple terms, connective tissue growth could help make you stronger. Even when you don’t have joint pain. 

Now, the obvious question comes up: 

HOW MUCH WILL THIS HELP? 

The thing is, connective tissue growth helps in theory…But the benefits are small in practice. Or in other words, collagen protein won’t make you very much stronger

In fact, for pain-free study subjects, collagen boosts 1RM strength by just a few kilos [2] over 12 weeks. 

Which is…something. But truly, that’s nothing to write home about. So, if you don’t have joint pain, collagen won’t help as much with short-term strength gains. 

And now you know all about collagen for weight loss and gains. So let’s wrap this article up…

SUMMARY: 

  • Many studies show that collagen can boost strength gains. In the long-run, by helping you train more. And directly, by fighting joint pain. 
  • This is because collagen protein boosts collagen synthesis. Which helps grow the cartilage and connective tissues around your joints – fending off joint pain. 
  • So if you face joint pain, then collagen protein can help you get a lot stronger. 
  • And if not, then collagen grows your connective tissues, which can support strength as well. Although, not by much – adding just a few kilos to your lifts over 3 months. 

Now, we’ll end with a summary and some practical guidelines: 

TAKEAWAY 

So, you’ve just learned all about collagen and weight loss. Plus all the science on collagen and gains. Congrats. 

But, to refresh your memory, we’ll end with a quick summary…

In brief, collagen protein can: 

  • Burn fat 
  • Fight joint pain
  • Speed up recovery from injury
  • Lower future injury risk 
  • And thus, promote muscle and strength gain over time 

So all told, collagen can help you reach your fitness goals faster. But better yet, you don’t have to work any harder to get the benefits. Since using collagen alone helps you burn fat and build muscle. 

But we’re missing a major point here: 

At the end of the day, collagen protein is only a supplement. So all told, it should complement a good diet and training program

Truly, if you want to be lean and muscular, you’ll need to put in the work. Now granted, collagen offers many benefits. And heck, it can even make your skin look nicer….

But, it just can’t replace a good diet and exercise routine. Not nearly.  

So if you want to set up your diet to get the most out of collagen, then read this to find out how many calories you should be eating.

And with that said, let’s go over how much collagen you’ll need to lose fat and make gains: 

HOW MUCH COLLAGEN SHOULD I TAKE? 

Take-this-much-collagen-protein

USING COLLAGEN FOR WEIGHT LOSS 

For fat loss and health, take at least 20 grams of collagen per day. Whenever, or however you’d like to. And preferably 2x daily. 

Ideally, take 15-20 grams of collagen protein at a time. Because it takes at least 20 grams of collagen to max out fat loss. As well as collagen synthesis. 

And if you take collagen 2x/day, then wait 6+ hours between collagen feedings.

Hence, if you had collagen at noon, wait until ~6 pm before doing so again. As blood collagen levels approach baseline after 7-12 hours

Lastly, try to take collagen protein ~60 minutes pre-workout. Since collagen levels peak after 60-120 minutes. And the more collagen your body makes while training, the better. 

PRACTICAL EXAMPLE:

Bob wakes up at 9 am, then takes 15-20 grams collagen with breakfast. Next, he waits ~6 hours before taking another 15-20 grams of collagen powder (now after 3 pm). 

Bob sometimes trains in the morning. On these days, he trains at 10 am, ~60 minutes after taking collagen. 

But, other times he trains in the afternoon. In this case, Bob still takes 15-20 grams of collagen, about an hour before he trains (at ~4:30 pm). 

And then on some days, Bob just won’t train. Either way, he takes collagen once in the morning and afternoon. Or, if he can only take collagen once that day, he’ll have at least 20 grams. 

So, ideally, be like Bob. But if that all sounds hard, just take 20 grams of collagen per day. Whenever you can – since that’s much better than nothing. 

USING COLLAGEN FOR MUSCLE GROWTH AND STRENGTH GAIN

For muscle growth, you can follow the above guidelines and be fine.

Just take 20 grams of collagen once or twice daily (spread 6+hours apart). And ideally pre-workout. 

But, the game changes a little bit if you’re injured…

USING COLLAGEN FOR PAIN OR INJURY MANAGEMENT 

To manage injuries, take 15-20 grams of collagen, twice daily. With at least one of serving coming pre-workout. 

But for our purposes here, that’s where we’ll leave it. So to learn exactly how to use collagen for joint health, check out this article.

And now, on to the take-home points: 

KEY TAKEAWAYS 

  • Collagen protein helps you lose more weight and build more muscle over time. In part because it fights pain and injury too. 
  • Then, to max out the benefits, take 15-20 grams of collagen, 1-2x daily. Ideally, with one dose pre-workout, and another coming 6 hours away (either earlier or later in the day). 
  • But collagen alone won’t make you look good; it should be paired with good exercise, diet, and sleep

The-benefits-of-collagen-protein

And to learn how you can use collagen for skin care.

But now, onto our last section:

FAQ:

1. WHEN TO TAKE COLLAGEN PROTEIN? 

For the best of all worlds, you should take collagen ~60-120 minutes pre-workout. 

And to hedge your bets, you could take collagen again 6 hours later. Or 6 hours earlier, if you train in the evening. 

This is because pre-workout collagen may help you avoid injuries. Also, since collagen peaks in the blood 60-120 minutes after you take it. Then, it remains in your system for another 6-12 hours

Thus, you should spread collagen feedings apart by ~6+ hours or so. That is, if you plan to take collagen twice per day. 

Now, in theory, taking collagen 2x/day should work better. Since this would get you more collagen synthesis. But we don’t have any studies to tell us for sure. 

2. COLLAGEN VS. WHEY: WHICH IS BETTER? 

Truly, there is no clear answer to this question. As in practice, it depends on your goals. 

For example, if you want muscle growth, then whey protein is better [1,2]. 

But if you want stronger bones and cartilage, then collagen may be your best bet [1,2,3,4]. 

At the end of the day, it depends on what you want. But the way I see it, collagen and whey protein complement each other well. 

For example, collagen protein helps your joints stand up to lifting. Hence, it helps you avoid injury during training. 

whey-protein-boosts-tendon-growth

Then, whey protein helps your muscles adapt to training – giving you the size and strength gains that you want.

But further, whey protein boosts tendon growth and strength as well. So much like collagen, it can help promote healthy aging

And lastly, collagen can make your skin look better – a nice add-on to any muscle built with whey protein. 

So all told, neither protein is better or worse. Rather, collagen and whey have different, complementary functions. And so it may be best to use both. 

3. WHICH COLLAGEN IS BEST FOR WEIGHT LOSS? 

Sadly, we don’t have any studies on which collagen is best for weight loss. But with that said, we can check out related research and take a good guess. 

For instance, other research shows that beef and pork collagen can each do well. That is, when compared to fish collagen, they seem to work better. 

As in fact, porcine collagen both re-hydrates skin and shrinks sun spots faster than fish collagen. 

Thus, pork collagen is your best bet, at least for skin health. 

Moving on, we see that beef collagen can help with joint pain too. And in fact, it helps just as much as pork collagen can. But to this point, no studies have compared beef collagen to fish collagen. So, we can’t say that beef is better than fish collagen for sure. (Yet, if I had to guess, I’d say it is.) 

So all told, pork collagen works well for joint pain and skin complexion. That is, better than fish collagen, and at least as well as beef collagen. 

But with that said, any collagen will work in time. Just note that if you had to bet, pork or beef collagen should work faster than fish collagen. 

Collagen Protein: The Key to Weight Loss and Muscle Growth?
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Vincent Sparagna

Most known for his writing and in-depth research, Vincent has published dozens of research articles for credible fitness websites.

When he's not writing, researching, or lifting weights, he enjoys reading and exploring the outdoors.
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